New Huntingdon BID manager says ‘exciting times’ are ahead

New BID manager Andrew Phillips in the Chequers Court office. Picture: HELEN DRAKE.

New BID manager Andrew Phillips in the Chequers Court office. Picture: HELEN DRAKE. - Credit: Archant

There’s a new face championing Huntingdon town centre as it continues its steady transformation.

Andrew Phillips started as manager of the town’s Business Improvement District (BID) last Monday (November 17).

He brings with him vast experience of the retail industry, having worked for John Lewis for 25 years where he was a manager of various departments in Cambridge.

“I wanted to find something that gave me scope to continue to develop my skills but where I could make a bit of a difference,” he told The Hunts Post.

“There’s so much going on in Huntingdon. We are really lucky here.”

Mr Phillips, who is 47 and lives in Papworth, was quick to point out the positives. Just eight per cent of the town’s shop units are empty, the national average is 13.3. There is investment being made. And footfall, since the opening of the multi-storey car park said Mr Phillips, is on the up.

Leading the way investment-wise is Chequers Court, with the former tax office having been demolished to make way for a new development.

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Mr Phillips, whose BID office has a bird’s eye view of the building site, said images of what the proposed shopping area will look like were to go up on the hoardings in the next couple of weeks.

“Chequers Court is an exciting opportunity. There’s commitment to invest in new retail units and eateries as well. It’s another positive message that people are prepared to invest.

“There are other towns that do not have this type of investment and forward planning.”

Plans for the town have not been without their setbacks. Waitrose pulled out of a move to the new Chequers Court, while Sainsbury’s revealed earlier this month that its planned relocation to Huntingdon West was on hold.

“It was a decision made by Sainsbury’s centrally,” Mr Phillips said. “We can bemoan the fact it’s happening but we as a town have to make the best of it.

“Whilst I understand there’s some negativity around the story, for us, in some ways it’s a positive.

“For the town centre, Sainsbury’s is a real draw. It’s a successful store and a successful store bringing people to the town.”

In the run-up to Christmas, Mr Phillips said BID had helped by improving this year’s lights display. It is also busy promoting seasonal entertainment and markets, as well as its shopping challenge celebrating independent stores.

For Mr Phillips, as well as shouting about Huntingdon being the place to invest, he will be busy making himself known. “I want to meet as many people as possible. That’s my priority - to get out and meet the people in the town who I work for and gain an understanding of what they want.”